Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This week's sponsor

MacUpdate - The easiest way to keep all your apps up-to-date effortlessly! Get 10% off by using the code SIXCOLORS.

Linked by Dan Moren

Apple Podcasts now available on the Amazon Echo

Generally, when I want to listen to a podcast on the Sonos One in my kitchen (usually while I’m cooking or washing dishes), I use my iPhone and AirPlay it to the smart speaker. Which seems silly, because, you know, I should be able to just request the podcast I want by voice. But in the past I’ve had mixed results getting it to play exactly the podcast I want.

That’s no longer the case, as Amazon announced this morning that it will now offer integration with Apple Podcasts. This means that not only can you tell Alexa to play any of the shows in Apple’s podcast directory, but, if you log in with your Apple ID it will even sync your playback position with the Apple Podcasts app.

Just go to the Alexa app on your iOS device, and under Settings > Music & Podcasts you should see Apple Podcasts listed under services. (It didn’t immediately appear for me, but quitting and relaunching the app made it show up.)

By default, you have to tell Alexa to play a show “from Apple Podcasts,” but under Default Services, you can set it to check Apple Podcasts without having to specify. Once you’ve got that set up, just say “play the latest episode of Clockwise” and away you go!

And, sure enough, when I jumped over to the podcast app on my iPhone, it picked up right where I’d left off on my Echo.

This is one of those small improvements that definitely makes life way easier for those who use both Echo smart speakers and Apple Podcasts—and I’m going to bet there are a few of them out there.


Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple’s next step with the Mac should be consumer-focused ↦

At long last, some two and a half years after Apple declared itself serious about enticing professionals back to the Mac, the Mac Pro is finally here. It joins the iMac Pro and the new 16-inch MacBook Pro as a triptych of attractive options for professional Mac users. That’s great.

But while Apple was focused on the professional market, its consumer-facing options have languished a bit. It’s not that the MacBook Air, the iMac, and Mac mini aren’t perfectly serviceable machines, but they could all use a little bit of love—especially after all the attention that’s recently been lavished on their pro-level counterparts. The consumer Macs may lack the high margins of the pro market, but they more than make up for it in terms of volume.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

The Talk Show ep. 271, “A Perfect Wheel”

A “brief chat” indeed.

Special guest Jason Snell returns to the show for a brief chat about the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, which are both — dare I say — finally available for ordering. Also: Ming Chi Kuo’s ingriguing rumors on the 2020 and 2021 iPhone lineups.

It’s been quite a week.


Linked by Jason Snell

Martin Pilkington on the Mac “Pro”

Many people are not happy about the choices Apple made when creating the new Mac Pro, and Martin Pilkington’s post is a clear encapsulation of many of their arguments:

All in all, the Mac Pro is a powerful machine. For certain workflows it is even worth the cost. But the problem is that Apple has priced out a huge swathe of the professional market by making its lower end Mac Pros prohibitively expensive for what is frankly underwhelming hardware.

Yes, these users can get by with iMacs and Macbook Pros, and even the iMac Pro (if they ever update it). But none of these offer the expandability that many professionals desire. They have limited ports that you can’t expand on. Of the 3, only the 27” non-Pro iMac offers any sort of upgradability, and even then that is only the RAM. And they all include a built in monitor which many professional users may not need, thanks to the wide range of high quality monitors available elsewhere.

There’s no denying that the Mac Pro doesn’t cater to Apple’s entire pro user base, that at $6000 it’s far more expensive than a Mac Pro has ever been, and that many professional users profess a desire for (internal) expandability and upgradability. It’s also true that by hitching itself to Intel, Apple has missed the boat in terms of the more powerful processors being made by AMD.

Pilkington’s final point, that the new Mac Pro is not a machine for the vast majority of professional users, also seems entirely correct. The implication is that Apple should have made a Mac Pro that would have more broad appeal, that would slide in at a more “traditional” $3000 starting price and be a reasonable buy for software developers and not just high-end video pros.

Apple’s product strategy strongly implies a belief that the iMac, iMac Pro, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro can serve most of the professional audience well… and that most professional users don’t really need expandability and upgradability, even if they profess to want it.

Apple has been headed in this direction for quite a while now, which is why I’m not surprised at the positioning of the Mac Pro as a product for the ultra-high-end.

Nor am I surprised that it has left a lot of people feeling shut out.


Podcast

Clockwise #324: Vehicles of Contamination

This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that watchmakers adore, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Lory Gil and Rene Ritchie to discuss how we keep our tech clean, our strategies for traveling with tech internationally, the next steps for Apple’s consumer Mac lineup, and how we talk about (and cover) tech rumors.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

How and why would Apple kill the iPhone’s Lightning port? ↦

Does Apple think that a single port is still one port too many? That’s a possibility according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a relatively reliable source on Apple’s supply-chain plans, who reports that in 2021 Apple will launch a high-end iPhone without a Lightning connector.

Apple pushing Lightning out of the equation isn’t surprising—the USB-C port on the iPad Pro could be a portent for such a move—but that’s not what Kuo is actually suggesting. He’s suggesting the Lightning port will be removed, to be replaced by a “completely wireless experience.”

I want to laugh this report off, but I can’t. This is the company that deleted the headphone jack on the iPhone a few years ago—a move that seemed far-fetched when it was rumored, and was absolutely true. Fool me once, shame on me—this time I’m going to take this report seriously.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound 268: The Airing of the Grievances

This week on the irreverent tech show that recorded slightly ahead of the Mac Pro release, we talk about Apple’s most expensive new computer before we delve straight into our litany of complaints about everything from Bluetooth pairing on cars to iPad multitasking to iCloud storage. But at least John has some happy thoughts about finding photos.

Episode linkMP3 (45 minutes)


By Jason Snell

macOS 10.15.2 restores iTunes Column Browser to Music

It’s back! I can now shuffle arbitrary selections with abandon.

One of my biggest complaints about macOS Catalina was that in the translation of iTunes into Music, TV, and Podcasts, my preferred way of navigating my music library—the three-paned Column Browser—was removed:

It was ugly but functional, and let me do things like quickly focus on a specific album or artist, or shuffle through an arbitrary set of albums in a temporary, impromptu playlist.

I’m happy to report that as of today, the macOS 10.5.2 update returns the Column Browser, which as far as I can tell works just as it did in iTunes. I can select an artist, a couple of albums, start playing, click the shuffle button—and music will shuffle between all the items in my selection. Perfect.

I’m not sure who at Apple was behind this decision to revive the column browser, but thank you, Mysterious Benefactor.


By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Removing Memoji and Animoji stickers from your iOS Emoji keyboard

iOS 13.3 is out today with some minor changes, but one that may come as a welcome improvement to many is the ability to hide Memoji and Animoji stickers from your device’s keyboard.

Since the addition of Memoji stickers in iOS 13, they’ve lurked off to the left hand side of your keyboard, shifting the more useful “Frequently Used” section further down. That was the case even if you didn’t use Memoji or Animoji stickers.

In iOS 13.3 you can banish them back to the nether realm from whence they came. Just go to Settings > General > Keyboard, scroll all the way down, and turn off Memoji Stickers. Then, the next time you open your emoji keyboard, you’ll be back to having your Frequently Used emoji at the top of the heap.

[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 Jason Snell

Is it Mac Pro day? It is.

The Mac Pro is now on sale. You probably don’t need to buy it, but you may want to.

A few things I noticed:

  • A rackmountable configuration will be sold directly by Apple, starting at $500 above the tower price, but it’s not for sale yet.

  • Processor upgrades range up to $7,000 for a 28-core Xeon.

  • Want to max out RAM? You can buy 1.5TB for $25,000. You’ll need a 24- or 28-core model for that, though.

  • Graphics card configurations range up to $10,800 for two Radeon Pro Vega II Duos. Radeon Pro W5700X configurations are not yet for sale.

  • SSD storage starts at 256GB but goes up to 4TB for $1400.

  • The Afterburner card, which is optimized for ProRes video workflows, is $2,000.

  • You can’t add wheels on later, apparently. Instead, Apple offers two stainless steel frames, one with feet and one, for $400 more, with wheels.

Not cheap! But the people who are buying the Mac Pro will be buying it for its power, which extends far beyond Apple’s past speed champion, the iMac Pro.


Podcast

Upgrade #275: Remove All of the Holes

Rumors of a forthcoming iPhone without any lightning or USB ports make us ponder why Apple would consider such a move and what its ramifications would be. Also, Apple basks in Golden Globe nominations and steps into movie-industry controversy and Jason explains why most people don’t need a Mac Pro.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 25 minutes)


Dan Moren for Macworld

Evaluating the rumors of the 2020 and 2021 iPhones ↦

It hasn’t even been three months since the release of Apple’s latest iPhone lineup and already the rumor mill is working overtime on what might arrive in the company’s smartphones next year and, believe it or not, the year after that.

Even if the iPhone is making up a smaller percentage of Apple’s revenue these days, it hasn’t ceased being the product that defines Apple, meaning speculation remains at peak levels. And all the smartwatches, streaming services, and fancy wireless headphones aren’t going to be changing that calculus anytime soon.

Certainly the next iPhone is still a way off, but it’s worth taking a moment to look at this latest round of rumors and think critically about what they might portend—even if they don’t end up coming true.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Solved: iPhone 11 sneaks a peek at location data for Ultra Wideband

There was a minor tempest in a teapot earlier this week when security reporter Brian Krebs reported that an iPhone appeared to be searching for its location even when the location feature was turned off.

At the time, Apple said it was working as intended and wasn’t leaking data, but in its own vague and oblique way. Now we’ve got some more details, as Zack Whittaker reports at TechCrunch:

“Ultra wideband technology is an industry standard technology and is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. “iOS uses Location Services to help determine if an iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra wideband and comply with regulations.”

“The management of ultra wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data,” the spokesperson said.

So basically, Apple needs to turn off Ultra Wideband in certain circumstances and so the iPhones with that feature (the iPhone 11 models) check to see where they are. That information doesn’t ever leave the phone. But Apple says it will add a setting to completely disable the location-sensing feature, and presumably Ultra Wideband along with it, in a forthcoming update.


Linked by Jason Snell

How MLB verifies the robot strike zone

(Content warning: Baseball. But I swear, tech folks, you don’t have to be a sports person to think this is cool.)

Computer-generated monitoring of the flight of every pitch in every major-league baseball game has changed how we perceive the game. Every major-league broadcast uses the data. We know the flight of the ball through space and, most importantly, its position as it crosses home plate—the ultimate determination of whether it’s a ball or a strike.

This knowledge has created a controversy—should MLB use this technology to replace human umpires in calling balls and strikes? When I came out strongly in support of a computer-assisted strike zone earlier this year, one of the biggest criticisms I heard was the idea that the technology isn’t nearly as reliable and trustworthy as it would need to be.

Which is why I really enjoyed this story by Clay Nunnally, a baseball scientist for MLB, about how the league verifies the accuracy of pitch-tracking technology at ballparks:

MLB works with the Washington State University Sports Science Lab to independently measure pitch-tracking accuracy in every MLB ballpark. Specifically, WSU performs ground-truth tests at every MLB park. A ground-truth test is designed to precisely identify the position of a baseball during a trajectory event such as plate crossing or pitch release. The ground-truth reference is the standard by which we evaluate the accuracy and precision of in-stadia tracking systems.

Essentially, the WSU lab travels to every ballpark and uses cameras that run at 2500 frames per second and a calibration system to track balls shot from a pneumatic cannon and compare their results to the in-stadium tracking system. The “ground-truth exercise” is performed annually at every MLB park, and additional tests happen during the season as well as whenever new equipment is added.

Is that enough precision to be used in major-league games? I guess that’s for the commissioner to decide. And this is only one way that on-field data is being collected; this ESPN piece by Sam Miller details a single play from last year using positional data, calculated via radar, for every player on the field.

I really enjoy reading about how technology is revolutionizing every aspect of sports and giving fans, players, and executives alike a better understanding of how these games work.


Podcast

The Rebound 267: A Cybertruck Full of Mac Pros

This week, on the irreverent tech show that’s primed for the holiday season, we discuss the deals we took advantage of on the recent shopstravaganza holiday. Lex has a beef about Apple Card, John’s got some questions about Apple Arcade, and Dan is having CarPlay problems. But no one’s in the market for a cyber truck.

Episode linkMP3 (39 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

The Mac Pro is an important symbol, but you probably shouldn’t buy it ↦

The new Mac Pro is coming very, very soon—in the next couple of weeks, if we hold Apple to the astronomical definition of “coming this fall.” It’s safe to say that this is the most anticipated Mac in history—if only because its existence was pre-announced more than two and a half years ago, with the specifics following six months ago.

The Mac Pro is important and it’s platform defining. And unless you’re someone in the extreme high end of the Mac market, you will never use one. It’s a bundle of contradictions bult on a precision stainless steel space frame and sheathed in a machined aluminum housing.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

Clockwise #323: Everything in My Computing Life is Chaos

This week, on the 30-minute show where the bells, the bells are ringing, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Aleen Simms and James Thomson to discuss our favorite tech gifts, given and received; our guesses for the future of the HomePod; what we do with all our photos; and how we unplug on vacation. Plus, a special holiday-music-themed bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (Unknown duration)


By Jason Snell

Amazon’s mystifying paper catalogs

[This post is adapted from an item from the November Six Colors members-only newsletter. Become a subscriber today to support the site and get access to our monthly newsletter, a members-only podcast, and more.]

When I was a kid, I loved, loved the Sears Wish Book. It was a catalog full of toys and games and pajamas and other stuff kids might want to put on their gift-request lists. I can still smell the ink on the paper of the Wish Book. I want that Star Wars toy and this video game and, no, I don’t want that pillow, c’mon mom, who wants a pillow for Christmas?

Clearly someone at Amazon has been thinking of the power of colorful print catalogs to promote products, because last month, we got an 89-page catalog from Amazon in our mailbox, titled “Play Together: Amazon’s Ultimate Wish List for Kids!”

Play Together is an attempt to replicate the old Wish Book and the somewhat more modern Toys R Us catalog. Instead of circling things with a pen, you can get out the Amazon app and hold the camera over any product to have it automatically recognized. This catalog is beautiful, and fun to leaf through, and Amazon obviously hopes it will drive enough sales to make it all worthwhile.

Problem: The Play Together catalog is delightfully full of toys for kids from toddlers up to preteens. My children are 18 and 15.

We live in a world where we can legitimately be concerned that Target knows you’re pregnant before you do based on changes in your buying habits in its stores. Big data is everywhere, and it’s invasive. Most of us tech savvy people would list invasive collection of personal data high on our list of problems facing the tech industry and society at large.

I take the fact that Amazon’s Play Together catalog is sitting on my desk right now as a hint that while these tech giants are collecting an awful lot of data, they’re not (yet?) consistently using it well.

If you looked at my family’s buying history for the past two decades, you could come up with a pretty good estimate for the ages of our children based on what we bought and when we bought it. So why did Amazon waste its money sending us a catalog targeted at kids that are the wrong age?

Yes, the catalog is addressed to my wife, who occasionally buys something for her job as a children’s librarian. It’s possible that some innocuous purchase in the last year was enough to put us on Amazon’s list. But if that’s true, isn’t that just more evidence that Amazon is doing a bad job of using the massive amount of data it has collected on us? Surely a single purchase here or there isn’t enough to override the mountain of data that says we’ve got a couple of teenagers.

I don’t know if this is good news or bad news, but I think it’s worth noting that just because these days it’s standard practice to aggregate as much information about customers as possible doesn’t mean that information is used, or used well. It’s a good idea to be wary that your information may be collected and used against you—but will it?

A week later, we got another Amazon catalog in the mail. This one was called Holiday Together, and featured clothing and accessories targeted at adults and families. I thought it was a much better match, until I looked at the mailing label, which read, “Tiff Arment c/o Jason Snell.”

This summer Tiff Arment shipped some La Croix directly to my house for an episode of the Top Four podcast. Why in the world would Amazon consider some fizzy water shipments enough data to decide that this alternate shipping address is the one they should send a catalog to? Did Tiff’s purchase habits commingle with my zip code and address to create a single, perfect target for Holiday Together?

Forget it, it’s Amazontown. But keep this in mind: Maybe Amazon isn’t nearly as smart as we (and they) think it is.


Podcast

Upgrade #274: More Clunky!

This week we get caught up on Apple services (Apple Pay, Apple News+, Apple Arcade), Jason gives Myke a tour of CarPlay in iOS 13, and we feed the tech podcast ecosystem with discussions of office lighting and weather stations.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 30 minutes)


Podcast

The Rebound 266: And That’s How They Made Google Wave

This week, on the irreverent tech show where we’re not above crass commercialism, we take a trip down technology memory lane to our formative years with computers, then discuss the continuation of everything sad for Apple this month, and finally try to end the show about four different times.

Episode linkMP3 (42 minutes)