six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Restore missing Share menu options

safari-sharemenu
The Share menu, returned to its former glory.

So, there I was, about to email my girlfriend a webpage—The Wirecutter’s new travel gear guide, if you must know—and for some reason, rather than copying and pasting the URL as is my wont, I instead found myself thinking “Wait, isn’t there a way to do this right from Safari?”

I was pretty sure there was even a keyboard shortcut, but searching the Help menu for “mail”—another of my handy tricks—didn’t show any results in the menus. So I went to the Share button in the toolbar and noticed, bizarrely, that there wasn’t an email option there either.

Huh.

A quick Google search turned this up as a known problem with, thankfully, a known solution from Apple. Just fire up Terminal and enter this line:

/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Versions/A/Support/lsregister -kill -seed

Wait for the Terminal prompt to show up, and blammo: all your Share extensions should be showing up again. (If they don’t, you’ll want to check the Extensions pane in System Preferences and make sure they’re enabled.)

It seems like this issue cropped up when upgrading from Yosemite to El Capitan…which shows you just how often I use the Share menu, I guess.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


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Apple Notes and college sports recruiting

Chris Johnson in Sports Illustrated Campus Rush:

The implications of [Recruit Jake] Bentley’s announcements remain to be seen, but the manner in which they were made public was the epitome of simplicity. There was no elaborate video, no news outlet reporting them on its airwaves. All Bentley needed was his Twitter account, two words, a couple of emojis and a hashtag, because in both cases he attached images bearing blocks of text—both of them set against a light gray background.

The images probably struck a chord with anyone who keeps tabs on recruiting: screen shots of the Apple Notes app.

Earlier this year I wrote about people using Notes to extend Twitter, and as a result, I’m quoted in Johnson’s story. Finally made it into Sports Illustrated, ma!


By Jason Snell

Comixology Unlimited: More about discovery than binging

Dan beat me to it, but I want to add a little more about Comixology Unlimited, the $6/month subscription service announced today.

Comixology Unlimited’s catalog doesn’t really offer lengthy runs of dozens of issues as Marvel’s subscription service does. Invincible has produced 128 issues, but only the first eight are on Unlimited.

I talked to Comixology CEO David Steinberger this morning, and he told me that this service was “designed from the ground up to increase the amount of people reading and engaging with comics.” This is what makes this service different from what Marvel offers: It’s designed for discovery of new comics, not for binges through the massive catalogs of long-running series. The service starts with a 30-day free trial, which Comixology hopes will entice new comics buyers to dip their toes in the water.

That’s great—I’m looking forward to reading Attack on Titan on Steinberger’s recommendation—but it does change the feel of the service. The ultimate goal is to let you try a bunch of comics risk free (for the price of two or three new comics per month), but with the hope that once you’re hooked, you’ll be converted into a buyer of the later issues of those comics.1

Steinberger said that Comixology will be adding new comics to the service monthly, but comics may also be removed from the service over time. Removing content from a subscription service can make people very unhappy, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. I’d hate to be halfway through a story arc, only to have the book I’m reading removed from the service.

While I would rather have seen a Marvel-like service that would allow me to binge the first 80 issues of The Walking Dead rather than just the first 12, I can see what Comixology is trying to do here. It’s not a Netflix for comics, but a relatively cheap way to try a bunch of new comics that you’d never otherwise buy.

The diversity of publishers offered by Comixology Unlimited also means there’s a greater diversity of subject matter: While it’s easy to equate “comic books” with “superheroes”, it’s also inaccurate. Sure, superheroes are in the mix at Comixology Unlimited—my favorite, Image’s Invincible, is included—but there’s also plenty of crime, horror, manga, sci-fi, and kid-focused stuff.

If you’re new to comics—or have limited yourself to superhero stuff from Marvel and DC—it’s worth checking out Comixology Unlimited. The 30-day trial will give you a good idea if it’s the right service for you, and you just might discover a new favorite. (Seriously, give Buffy Season Eight and Invincible a look.)


  1. Yes, this is a subscription service designed to get you to buy more comics. Diabolical. ↩


By Dan Moren

Amazon takes a chip off the Marvel block with Comixology Unlimited

Since I signed up for Marvel Unlimited a while back, I’ve really gotten back into comics. But the biggest downside to Marvel Unlimited is right in the name: it’s Marvel-only. Still, the popularity of the service has clearly not gone unnoticed, as Amazon’s Comixology service announced today that it’s rolling out its own subscription offering, the creatively-titled Comixology Unlimited.

Comixology Unlimited

The idea of Comixology Unlimited is exactly what you’d expect: for a monthly fee—in this case, $6—you get access to a library of titles that you can read at your leisure. Unlike Marvel’s offering, there are a lot of different publishers here, such as heavy hitters like Image and Dark Horse, and other popular houses like Dynamite, Oni Press, IDW, Valiant, Fantagraphics, and way, way more. Not present, though are titles from Marvel, obviously, or from its chief rival, DC. That leaves the home of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as the remaining major publisher not to offer a subscription service.

The service integrates with Comixology’s iOS, Fire Tablet, and Android apps, as well as its web client. As with Marvel Unlimited, there’s no limit to what you can read, and you can download titles for offline reading, too. I couldn’t easily find out from Comixology’s site whether there was a limit on the latter—Marvel Unlimited, for example, only lets you have 12 offline issues at a time.

There are, unsurprisingly, a few caveats: for one, Comixology Unlimited is currently U.S.-only, though Amazon says it plans to expand in the future. For another, you need to merge your Comixology and Amazon accounts for reasons only described as “really boring tech mumbo jumbo.”

Also, what’s less clear on Comixology Unlimited than its Marvel counterpart is the rubric for when new items appear. In Marvel’s case, it’s generally about six months after an issue is released, and new content arrives on Monday every week, along with plenty of new archive titles from the publisher’s massive backlog.

Comixology Unlimited doesn’t quite live up to its moniker yet. For example, volume 1 of Brian K. Vaughn’s popular Saga was available for download, though the subsequent four volumes were not. Same for Antony Johnston’s The Fuse. In general, expect a lot of first volumes of ongoing series to get new readers hooked. Older series sometimes had more issues available, but even a title from 2008 didn’t have its full run on offer. Amazon says it plans to expand the number of titles, but I imagine much of that will depend on just how successful Comixology Unlimited ends up being.

Comixology Unlimited is also, in my brief time using it on my iPad, a bit messier than Marvel Unlimited, because Amazon is using the same app for its subscription service and its conventional buy-and-download store. The commingling of those titles makes it kind of confusing to differentiate between content available for “borrowing” and that you have to purchase. (Hint: look for the “Unlimited” banner on the corner of the covers.)

Still, at $6 per month, you only really need to read a couple of issues of comics every 30 days to make Comixology Unlimited worth its price. It would behoove Amazon to be a little more transparent about how often new content will be added to the service, and clean up the experience a little bit—would a separate app be such a bad thing, really?—but overall, Comixology Unlimited is definitely an intriguing proposition for comics readers.1 If you want to decide for yourself, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial.

(Jason has a follow-up post with information from an interview with Comixology CEO David Steinberger.)


  1. Your move, DC.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Linked by Jason Snell

In Praise of the A-List

I want to do a loud “me too” to this piece by Jim Dalrymple at The Loop:

The “A-List: Hard Rock” is a playlist, not a station, and it’s focused only on new music. After looking at the list of songs, I found that many of the new songs I found on the Hard Rock station were listed here-and I found a few others too.

The A-List playlists, curated by smart music editors for each genre and updated regularly under Apple Music’s New tab, are my single favorite feature of the service. Almost all of my music discovery in the last nine months has been courtesy of the A-List Alternative playlist.

The A-List playlists are all roughly 50 songs long, so you can listen for quite a while before running out of entertainment. New songs are cycled on regularly, so any given song will live on the playlist for a few months before dropping off. I have been slowly been building a playlist of my own, featuring my favorite songs from the Alternative A-List playlist as well as a few other editor playlists, like Alternative Chill, and the result is an 80-minute playlist of songs largely by bands I’ve never heard of, that I now love.


By Chip Sudderth

Skype causing more headaches for Mac podcasters

[Chip Sudderth is the host of the Two-Minute Time Lord podcast and co-host of The Audio Guide to Babylon 5, as well as a frequent panelist on The Incomparable.]

Hobbyist and professional podcasters alike depend on Microsoft’s Skype for mustering panels and interviewing guests, even as they curse it under their breath for its occasional lack of stability and call quality. Skype is ubiquitous because it’s widely cross-platform, relatively easy to install and use, and free—but it may be time for Mac podcasters in particular to pursue more options.

Skype’s Mac user support forum has been abuzz since December with complaints that the ability to adjust conversation volume had been removed since version 7.25. A Skype community manager acknowledged that client and server changes were responsible, and that restoring the functionality would not be easy: “For the speaker volume controls we are still working out how to address this for the scenarios where OSX global speaker volume controls are not the answer.”

This did not amuse podcasters on the forum, because Skype for Mac now consistently outputs “hot” and distorted audio to both headphones and capturing software. “Double-ending,” or recording both sides of a Skype conversation at the source for the producer to sync, is a podcasting best practice. But if a guest is unable to independently record their side of the conversation or has a technical failure, the producer depends on the Skype track for backup. Since Skype for Mac 7.35, that track is likely to sound jarringly worse than the host’s.

The changes in Skype may relate to a new problem I have in putting together my panel podcast, The Audio Guide to Babylon 5, using Skype and one of Rogue Amoeba’s indispensable tools for podcasters, Audio Hijack. Audio Hijack typically and cleverly captures audio from any Mac application. Using the Skype preset, however, as soon as I press the “record” button Skype audio becomes even hotter and largely unusable if my co-hosts have a recording failure.

Audio Hijack’s technical support team researched the issue and responded to me by email (emphasis added):

We’ve been digging further, and it seems that there’s a bug or major change in Skype that’s affecting Audio Hijack’s ability to capture and split up the input and output audio, and we’re looking into ways of improving that behavior. We might suggest using an alternative method of capturing your audio, by disabling the setting to include audio inputs with Skype, and capturing your microphone separately.

skype-AH-window

That’s what I did. My new Audio Hijack session (pictured) includes two separate audio inputs: a direct link to my USB microphone interface on the left channel and Skype audio output minus my input on the right channel. (The two inputs don’t even have to be combined into the same file; Jason’s preferred Audio Hijack layout sends each audio source into a separate mono file.) The result is that my Skype recordings are still hot but no longer too hot to use in an emergency. 1

The short-term lesson here is that podcasting tools that directly integrate with Skype may be somewhat risky, as Microsoft changes its clients and underlying technology without considering edge cases. On the Mac side, guests can simply record their side of the conversation using QuickTime Player. Producers can record the Skype track and their own microphones separately.

In the long term, however, this serves as a warning to podcasters. Is podcasting support on the Mac so much of an edge case that we need to more thoroughly explore alternatives to Skype? FaceTime is Mac-only. Google Hangouts, which runs as an extension to Chrome, can integrate with Hangouts on Air and YouTube for live video, but it can be a strain on both bandwidth and resources.

Cast seems to be the most promising alternative for traditional podcasting. Even without using its online editing and hosting services, it seamlessly records and syncs native audio from guests. It’s perfectly designed for novice users: just open an emailed link in Chrome, choose your microphone, and go. The host can directly retrieve the individual MP3 files for editing. In my experiments with Cast, however, it seemed unforgiving to guests with spotty internet service or overburdened computer hardware, and Cast doesn’t support more than four participants at one time.

More challenging to many podcasters is the cost: Cast charges a minimum of $10 per month for 10 hours of recording time. For all its headaches—and if you’re confident you’re not going to need to use its audio output—Skype is free. However, as we’ve seen repeatedly in the social media sphere, if you’re not a service’s paying customer your needs are more likely to be less of a priority when technological underpinnings or business models change.

My podcasting community tends to grumble a lot about Skype. Maybe we should take our attention, and even our money, elsewhere.


  1. Plenty of podcasters use raw Skype audio to begin with. While the resulting audio quality isn’t ideal, a guest with a fast, reliable internet connection and a high-quality microphone should sound all right.  ↩

[Don't miss all our podcasting articles.]


Linked by Dan Moren

Apple’s AI challenges

Marco Arment:

Today, Apple’s being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritize those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they’re able to do, despite being very good at it, won’t be enough anymore, and they won’t be able to catch up.

If there’s anywhere I worry about Apple, it’s here. As Marco rightly points out, you miss this boat, and it’s really hard to catch up. Apple has been touting its R&D spending recently, but the general consensus seems to be that much of that is invested in the idea of a car—which is a totally different direction than where most of its competitors are going.

That said, Apple is still in an advantageous position compared to RIM, in that it has a ton of cash squirreled away. Just mountains of it. Maybe it can afford to hopscotch over this wave and catch whatever the next one is. And maybe iPhone sales will stay strong enough to let them bridge that gap. I think Apple’s leadership is smart enough to realize that the iPhone won’t be the golden goose forever, and that’s why they’re spending so much on R&D. The only real question is whether that next wave breaks their way.



Dan Moren for Macworld

Here’s hoping Google’s new messaging apps aren’t just two more silos ↦

For the big players in technology, like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, it’s become all about the ecosystem. Yes, you might be great at building products like Apple, or at online services like Google, or at…well, whatever Microsoft is great at. But so much of technology has become about providing all the trappings.

Think of it a bit like a hotel—you want to provide all the amenities that your rival hotel chains do: swimming pool, cable, valet parking. Otherwise, your customers may go somewhere else.

Hence Google’s announcements at this week’s annual I/O conference, including offerings like messaging app Allo and video chat app Duo.

The key difference, though, lies in the fact that technology enables us to connect with each other, and all this ticking of boxes can sometimes mean that those ecosystems become more like silos, isolated from each other. Most often this leads to a proliferation of varying apps and standards. Worst case, though, your accommodations become the Hotel California, where you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Cook: Apple’s in India “for the next thousand years”

Tim Cook continues his tour of India with an interview in The Hindu:

We are learning. There are things that are clearly different. But I would say there’s more things similar than different. The tendency is to magnify the difference and not look for similarity. The truth is that everyone wants the best product, not everyone may be able to grab it, but they want it. So when you start to look at it like that, you have a different perspective. We are patient people. We are not in India for a week or a quarter. We are in India for the next thousand years. Our horizon is very long. We are focused on best, not most. So it doesn’t bother me that we don’t have top market share. I don’t have the goal to have the top share next week or next quarter.

[hat tip: iMore]


Linked by Jason Snell

Inside Google’s Plan to Rule the VR World

Here’s Philip Michaels at Tom’s Guide:

Google’s working with a number of phone makers to create Daydream-ready devices: In the opening keynote, Bavor specifically mentioned Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei, ZTE, Asus and Alcatel. Those phones are going to sport some pretty powerful specs to cut latency to less than 20 milliseconds — a key to delivering the kind of “you are there” experience Google is aiming for with Daydream.

Smartphone-based implementations of VR are never going to be able to compete with the kind of power that you see in the base system requirements for something like Oculus Rift—requirements so strict that no Macs support it. But if we’ve learned anything from the rise of the smartphone, it’s probably that they don’t have to compete. High-end VR rigs will probably appeal to the same people who have gaming consoles and gaming PCs. A mainstream use of VR is far more likely, it seems to me, to come from the smartphone market.

That said, smartphone-based VR tech still needs to be good enough for people to accept it. If it’s a lousy experience, it will fail. It’ll be interesting to see how Daydream plays out.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Does a cellular Apple Watch make sense? ↦

Since the day the Apple Watch was announced in September 2014, and certainly once it launched in April 2015, people have been speculating about what the second-generation Apple Watch might bring to the table. (Those people probably liked shaking all the packages under their Christmas tree, too.) But a report in the Wall Street Journal got me thinking:

“Apple is working on adding cell-network connectivity and a faster processor to its next-generation Watch, according to people familiar with the matter,” the report said.

Faster, sure—I think anyone who’s used an Apple Watch would endorse faster. But the rest of the potential hardware features of a next-generation Apple Watch seem hard to prioritize to me.

Apple could certainly make it thinner and lighter, though I don’t consider the size of the Apple Watch to be one of its biggest issues—it’s not any bigger than the mechanical watches I used to wear. GPS support would be nice, but would be problematic without cellular support to assist. Battery life could be better, but it’s unlikely to be enough of a breakthrough to prevent you from having to charge it every day.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Tim Cook at the Cricket Match

I kind of like cricket, though I’m still trying to understand it. (Educate yourself with this fancy podcast.) Anyway, Tim Cook and Apple are very interested in India and what better example than Cook’s appearance at the IPL cricket match tonight between Gujarat and Kolkata.

“It’s hugely important, it’s a great marketplace, but the talent is incredible here… India just has an incredible future ahead, I’m very optimistic,” he told the sideline reporter.

Cook’s a big college football fan, so I’m not sure how he’ll take to cricket. But he said polite things.


Podcast

The Rebound 86: Guttural Thinking Sounds

The Rebound

It’s a quiet week in Apple news, so Dan, John, and Lex discuss Berkshire Hathaway’s $1 billion investment in the company—and Apple’s $1 billion investment in the Uber of China. Also the death of Current C, possible wireless charging rumors, and the utter horror of abbreviating words unnecessarily.


Linked by Dan Moren

Apple to open Maps-centric office in India

The India-related Apple news continues. The company announced on Thursday that it will be opening a new office in Hyderabad, India focused on the development of Maps for all of its platforms—Mac, iOS, and watchOS. According to Apple, “this investment will accelerate Maps development and create up to 4,000 jobs.”

It’s an unusual move for Apple, which has long tried to keep the vast majority of its development localized at its Cupertino campus.1 But the accelerated development and “expanding Maps team” suggest that not only is Apple focused on continued improvements to the software, but that mapping is increasingly important to the company. Perhaps it will help lay the groundwork for future products, such as a car? Who knows?


  1. There are additional offices in a variety of other U.S. states and countries, but most of its significant development happens at Infinite Loop.  ↩


By Jason Snell

Google I/O Keynote live coverage (completed)

Today is Google I/O Keynote day! We watched the live stream and commented on it, via the Talkshow app.

You can look at the embedded box below, or read in a separate window.1


  1. Safari Developer Preview and Firefox users, this means you, probably. ↩


Linked by Dan Moren

Apple opens iOS accelerator in Bengaluru

Tim Cook really wasn’t kidding about considering India the next big emerging market. He’s made a few trips to the country in the last year, including this week when he’s scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Modi. And now Apple has announced it’ll be opening a Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru (Bangalore), the heart of India’s tech scene, sometime in 2017.

Apple’s team will work to inspire and instruct developers on best practices, help them hone their skills and transform the design, quality and performance of their apps on the iOS platform.

Each week, Apple experts will lead briefings and provide one-on-one app reviews for developers. The facility will also provide support and guidance on Swift™, Apple’s powerful and intuitive programming language created to build apps for iOS, Mac®, Apple TV® and Apple Watch®.

As far as I can tell, this is the first time Apple has done anything of this sort. While it works with developers at events like WWDC and Tech Talks, this would seem to be the first time it’s established a permanent location somewhere. Not only does this give Apple a leg-up on encouraging app development in the region, but it also enables Indian developers who might otherwise have a hard time getting ahold of these particular resources, whether due to poor Internet penetration or other challenges.

On a personal note, I’m actually planning a trip to India later this year, so I’ll be interested to get an up close look at the tech scene there.


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple staffing up on wireless charging experts?

Ben Popper at The Verge:

In the last four months two former uBeam engineers with expertise in wireless charging and ultrasonic technology had been hired by Apple. In fact, public LinkedIn data on Apple’s recent hires shows these former uBeam staffers were part of a much broader trend. In the last two years Apple has hired more than a dozen staffers with expertise in wireless charging.

uBeam’s approach—which is controversial in the sense that some people say it won’t work—is to transmit power over distance, rather than using inductive charging on a charging mat. Popper also cites an earlier Bloomberg report that Apple is hoping to add wireless charging of some kind to the fall 2017 iPhone.

Given what a huge portion of Apple’s business is iPhone, and given the company’s disdain for ports and wires, these rumblings aren’t at all surprising.


By Jason Snell

Associate, a simple iOS app for Amazon links

Affiliate links are one way that people who spend a lot of time linking to stuff on the Internet can make money. From bigger enterprises like the Wirecutter to smaller ones like Six Colors and The Incomparable, it’s great to recommend a product and get a bonus if someone in your audience ends up buying it because of your recommendation.1

Linking to products on iTunes or Amazon with the appropriate affiliate tags takes a little more effort than making a generic link. I’ve got a bookmarklet that does it for Amazon and there’s a web page that Apple offers that does the same thing. But if I’m working on iOS, there are a couple of apps that can make the process of generating these links much easier.

New on the App Store today is Associate: Simple Affiliate Linking for Amazon, a $5 app from John Voorhees that wraps any Amazon link you provide in the proper affiliate codes, and can even look up the name of the product and embed it in a Markdown link.

With this workflow, I can browse a product page on Amazon, choose Associate from the Share Sheet, and the Associate interface will slide in. With a couple of taps I’ve got a Markdown link on my clipboard. For example, I read and enjoyed Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which just won the Nebula Award for best novel. That link was generated by Associate. (Unfortunately, Affiliate has to use the full Amazon product name, which is often full of SEO junk text, so I had to edit the text of the link to make it more readable. Does anyone really want to link to Uprooted: Naomi Novik: 9780804179058: Amazon.com: Books? Yuck.)

Associate follows on the release of Blink: Better Affiliate Links, a similar $5 app from Voorhees that does the same thing for iTunes affiliate links, including the links I made in this story to both apps. The snake eats its own tail, I guess.

Anyway, these apps are both great little additions to the workflow of anyone who does a lot of product blogging on iOS.


  1. No, I don’t consider this a violation of journalistic ethics. I link to products I mention naturally, and don’t change what I write to spur affiliate sales. ↩


Podcast

Upgrade #89: Can We Use a Tracking Pixel?

Upgrade

This week on Upgrade, Myke Hurley and Jason talk a bit more about the business of podcasting, as they’re joined by podcaster and podcast ad sales executive Lex Friedman. We also analyze Apple’s investment in a Chinese ride-sharing service and what that means for the company’s future directions.